An architectural marvel

An architectural marvel

Sometimes, travelling in India is like a leap in the dark. You go to unknown places and discover an entirely different world of experiences.

While in Raipur for the annual conference of the Indian Psychiatric Society, I suddenly decided, on a whim, to visit Bhoramdeo about which I had read sometime ago. Since it involved staying overnight there, I was clueless as to how to take the idea forward. Google is a saviour in such instances! A quick search revealed a place, Bhoramdeo Jungle Retreat. Since it was quite late by then, with much hesitation I rang up Sunny, the owner of the place. The connection was spotty. He said that he was far away from the resort, trekking in the jungle, but offered a place to stay without hesitation.

The next morning we drove down to Bhoramdeo. The first hour of drive was quite challenging as we had to negotiate huge trucks carrying iron ore. The landscape was enchanting after that and the road was smooth as silk. It wasn’t surprising then to hear from the driver, that we were heading towards Kawardha, the hometown of the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Dr Raman Singh. After a 30-minute drive from Kawardha, we reached the Bhoramdeo Jungle Retreat.

It was a welcoming and homely environment. The rooms were beautifully decorated with works of local artisans. After a delicious lunch under the canopy of a large tree, we made our way to the Bhoramdeo Temple, which was just around the corner. At first sight, the temple stunned me. The fact that there could be a temple so beautiful, yet so unknown, miles away from civilisation was equally intriguing and surprising. The outer walls of the temple were embellished with panel upon panel of exquisite sculptures, covering a wide range of themes from the religious, the symbolic to the erotic. The soft morning rays of the winter sun dappled their way through the ‘sal’ and ‘bija’ leaves, setting the temple aglow with a golden lustre. There were many school kids in their uniform also visiting the temple.

The temple is said to have been brought to public attention by Alexander Cunningham, the first director general of the Archaeological Survey of India, who visited Bhoramdeo during the 1880s. Dating back to 1100 AD and much older than the Khajuraho Temple groups, the resemblance of the images and architecture to Khajuraho is striking.

However, while the subject and sculptural style is contemporaneous with Khajuraho, to term Bhoramdeo as the ‘Khajuraho of Chhattisgarh’ would not be quite apt in terms of magnitude.  The erotic sculptures are carved out only on the outer walls of the temple.

The inner walls do not have any sculptures. Erotic images could be metaphors for the bliss of union with the divine; they could also represent the world of the senses in which we are immersed, and the quest to transcend that to achieve spiritual solace.

Chhattisgarh has always been considered as India’s hidden secret. An unexplored and untouched travel destination. The Bhoramdeo Temple is a scintillating example of that!


(The author can be contacted at profraguram@gmail.com)

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